Space Sustainability: Reframing the Debate

Christopher Newman, Mark Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
237 Downloads (Pure)


The 21st Century has seen a significant increase in space activity, driven by private sector entities using space for commercial enterprises. This increased use of space is not without cost to the delicate space environment. The threat posed by human-made debris in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is now widely recognised as presenting a danger to current levels of space activity and a more sustainable approach is sought by private and public sector actors. This article will evaluate sustainability in LEO and whether the consensus regarding orbital debris is matched by legislative or governmental action. More broadly, however, it will be contended that notions of space sustainability have largely been restricted to LEO. This article will seek to move the sustainability debate beyond LEO, by highlighting the potential risks to delicate space environments that arise from human activity in both exploring and settling other celestial bodies. The article will attempt to reframe the discussion on sustainability, advocating legal and policy solutions that need to guide future space activity to ensure that humanity avoids replicating the problems now found in LEO.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-37
JournalSpace Policy
Early online date5 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


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